‘Biblical Christian’ Denies Reception Hall Rental to Lesbian Couple June 24, 2012

‘Biblical Christian’ Denies Reception Hall Rental to Lesbian Couple

A few days ago, Kristen Stewart (not that one), a manager at the University Club reception hall in Moline, Illinois, turned away a potential customer because she didn’t approve of her sexual orientation.

Kristen Stewart

It was the same story we’re used to by this point: The owner or employee begins to tell the customer about the facility over the phone, finds out that the customer’s partner is of the same gender, and then flatly denies service to them.

Taylor Shumaker says she called the University Club on Tuesday, June 19, 2012 to inquire about the place. She says bar manager Kristen Stewart offered to give Shumaker a tour and asked if her fiance would be coming.

“And she asked if ‘he’ would be coming and I just said, ‘No, it’s not actually a ‘he’, it’s a ‘she.’ And she said, ‘Excuse me?’” recounted Shumaker.

“I said, ‘It’s a woman,’ and she said, ‘Oh, we don’t rent to homosexual couples’”

Taylor Shumaker

When interviewed by the local news, Stewart was unapologetic:

I am a biblical Christian and I do not believe in homosexual marriage, that’s correct. And because marriage is a covenant that God created for man and woman, as a biblical Christian, I cannot help them into or celebrate that sin.

I wonder if she ever wears a poly-cotton blend, or works on Sunday. And where does she find bears for all those unruly kids that inevitably run amok at receptions?

Stewart’s husband Perry (whose family apparently doesn’t hold the same views as his wife) is the president of the University Club and he issued a statement saying that his wife “mis-spoke,” adding that he was very sorry this happened.

I have attended a wedding reception at the University Club in the past. It’s a lovely place. It is also a “public accommodation.”  Contrary to what the name might suggest, it is not a private club, so it is therefore subject to non-discrimination laws like the Illinois Human Rights Act. Because the business is open to the public, and because the law specifically prohibits refusal of service on the basis of sexual orientation, Kristen Stewart’s actions were probably illegal.

From the articles I’ve read, it appears that Perry Stewart had every reason to know how his wife would react to this sort of situation, and he still allowed her to handle the bookings. (He has said that she will no longer do so.) He insists that the establishment has an “open door policy.”

One report even says Perry Stewart will make a donation to a gay and lesbian organization as a way to make amends.

It doesn’t look like Taylor Shumaker intends to sue, but she would probably be successful if she did. Several other establishments have offered the use of their facilities for free. Great PR move on their part, I think.

There has been a lot of debate about whether this sort of thing violates an owner’s free exercise of religion… mostly from people who don’t understand that free exercise is not an absolute right. If they want to ban gay people, they must not hold their doors open to the public. It’s as simple as that.

These rules come from our priorities as a society. I personally think that it’s far preferable to punish discrimination with punitive damages than to protect religious exercise in a person’s business practices. No one is saying Kristen Stewart can’t go to church, or donate to an anti-gay organization, or patronize Chik-Fil-A, but discrimination against people in a protected class is just not a protected right. And that’s good.

***Update***: According to an email statement put out by the University Club, Kristen Stewart has resigned:

In the statement, Mr. Stewart said he first wanted to express the University Club’s “deepest apologies” to Taylor Shumaker of Davenport, the woman who had inquired about renting the venue.

The apology also was extended to “the entire community, for all the deep hurt that was caused by Kristen’s mistake by expressing her own personal beliefs while representing the University Club.

“The University Club has and always will have an open door policy in which all are welcome.”

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  • Inoub

    “All are welcome. We have an open door policy.”

    …added after this incident? 

    Also, the fact that the husband and his entire family feel differently than Mrs. Stewart and yet she’s still in the family/business struck me as really odd. If she felt that strongly, why be a part of it in any way? /shrug

  • Tom

    “Mis-spoke?”  Absolutely untenable.  Barefaced falsehood.  An instantaneous, one-word Freudian slip is mis-speech, when your brain just misfires for a second and supplies the wrong word when you meant something else.  A properly structured sentence explaining your bigoted position, followed up by more coherent sentences at another time backing up what you said the first time, is not.  This woman meant exactly what she said.  At best, it was “mis-thought,” since there apparently was already an arrangement in place to allow her her bigotry but to pass gay customers on to her husband – convenient, since it allows her to hate and abuse people but derive an income from them anyway.

    The only way this could be made worse is if the woman had claimed that “gay panic” (Total BS, because there is no *straight* panic) had, upon her realising to her evident revulsion that she’d been talking to and treating a homosexual as an equal, made her forget the arrangement to simply pass gay customers onto her partner and decide to make something up just get rid of the icky person.

  • One nitpick:

    Sunday isn’t the sabbath. It’s Saturday. Christians, get over it: you re-invented it to be Sunday. But it’s wrong, wrong, wrong. If Jesus really did exist, you can bet your sweet fucking Christian ass that Saturday was “his” day of rest, and not Sunday.

    It’s Sunday today – 13:50 in the P.M. here in Israel local time, and everyone is at work. And you know why? Because that’s what Leviticus means by the first day of the week.

    So yeah, if that holier than thou ignorant Christian ever worked on a Saturday, then she deserves to be STONED TO DEATH.

    Not that it makes it any better, but I figured I’d share. =)

    (P.S. I am an Atheist, I’m just correcting the various kinds of bullshit.)

  • Whether or not there’s a lawsuit the RW nuts will be holding this up as another example of Radical Gay Activists forcing innocent Christians to go against their moral values. 

  • Don’t forget that they’ll claim to be an oppressed minority as well, doing battle against the majority “Ho-mo-SEX-u-AL Agenda”! =)

  • Fartknocker

    “as a biblical christian”
    In other words, as a fundamentalist, uneducated bigot.
    I hope the couple choses one of the other venues.

  • On a different note; the irony in this “Biblical Christian” being the liquor manager almost makes it comical?  She won’t let two Lesbians in the door, but doesn’t mind pouring out ‘sin’ to other clientele?

  •  My first thought was “wow, that’s a very public way to have that particular argument with your wife.  I do not envy you, guy.”

    My second thought was that it took them five minutes to figure out that they were wearing “Please Sue Us” signs and probably losing business in the process, and they decided that having him come in with the change of heart, selling it as if they’ve always had this open-door policy and Mrs. Stewart just went off on her own for some reason, was the safest in terms of publicity and legal vulnerability.

    But I’m not a lawyer or a branding expert or whatever else.

  • TomJTaylor
  • Stev84

    They aren’t Muslims. Jesus loved wine and so do Christians. There are better things to point out hypocrisy

  • I’m pretty sure you can pick any day you like to be the sabbath. Calendars and named days came long after the supposed biblical creation. And if you do it by figuring out the date of Creation (Bishop Ussher style, I presume) and then counting by sevens, you run into discontinuities at various calendar reforms. So really, the decision to make any particular day the sabbath is arbitrary, and always has been.

  • I can still imagine this being used as an example on the “attack on religious freedom” despite this being a public business, not a private club, and not to mention the fact that this employee’s religious beliefs conflict with the official policies of the business to begin with!

    The religious right wants to protect the religious liberty of business owners, so now will they also protect the religious liberties of their employees? What if they conflict, as they seem to do here? This seems to open the door to absolute mayhem.

  • cipher

     Oh, absolutely. This story, along with her weepy “testimony”, will be on the home page of their fundraising websites within 48 hours.

  • In this case, I really hope she doesn’t sue.  The only way it would be good for people if she sues is if its a class action type where she can find other couples in the past who met the same fate at the hands of Mrs. Stewart, showing that the policy has only changed due to being called out on it.  

    The reason I say this is, because if it is just Shumaker that it happened to, it was the act of a single employee, Mrs. Stewart, and the company handled it appropriately by removing Mrs. Stewart from the post which allowed her to mis-represent the club.  We can’t go after every business for the faults of single employees when the employees are dealt with immediately in such an appropriate matter because it would make us look not like we are just trying to secure equal rights, but on some type of vindictive agenda. 

    As I said though, if there were more victims of Mrs. Stewart who come together with similar stories to Ms. Shumaker showing this has been going on for awhile, it would be good to open a case to see just how much the club knew about Mrs. Stewart’s actions before actually putting a stop to her bigotry representing the club.

  • Yotey

    I seems clear to me that the husband is running scared from a lawsuit and bad press. Oddly enough, I think this is a good sign. The LGBTQ community has shown time and time again that they will fight for their members, and more often then not, they will win on the right side of the law. The businesses that reject them are forced to show their full unjustified bigotry to the world. 
    Mr. Stewart knew that his was was in the wrong, and he knew that they would be held accountable for her attitudes unless he took swift action.  This sort of prejudice is becoming less and less acceptable. Perhaps soon can’t hide behind religion for much longer. 

  • kenneth

    By mid-day Monday, at the latest, we will be seeing stories about the “gay thought police” and Christian persecution. My bet is we will see at least two such posts right here on Patheos blogs….

  • Christians should celebrate the way Mr. Stewart took his wife in hand.  That’s really biblical.

  • SeniorSkeptik

       The religious right has already managed to inject their religious liberties onto employers. Pharmacists in some states can refuse to fill a prescription for certain medications which the pharmacists thinks are abortificants and nurses can refuse to perform POST abortion services and claim Christian privilege as their right.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, as a “Biblical Christian” you have to get the community together to stone them. With stones.

    The Bible is very clear about that. It is important to stone people with stones, and not with candy or ants.

    The early Jews must have been very confused on the matter for the Bible to have said it like that.

    Which makes it all the more funny when Jesus asks later, “Which of
    you if your child asks for bread will give him a stone? Surely the
    Heavenly father will do no less.” Haha, yeah he will. He said so
    himself. No bread at your gay wedding. You get stones.


  • Anonymous

     You cannot pick any day you like to be the Sabbath. Ask any Spanish-speaker which day is the Sabbath.

  • Actually, er, no?

    That’s the way that Christianity figured it out, but not the way that Jews did. From all the archaeological evidence we have, that’s not the way it worked. They were using the Sabbath as their “holy day” before they started to write it down, most likely, and then the story developed from there. If anyone gets to claim that *that* day was the one they meant when they said “God rested”, it’s them, ok?

    I’m not saying that it’s actually true, that God actually rested on the Sabbath, or that this was the day when the universe took a break from being created, or hell, that God even exists, or that the Jewish priests actually figured it out correctly or anything like that. What I’m saying is that they came up with this idea most likely long before they wrote it down, and so when they say that Saturday is the Sabbath, then that’s what the frigging Sabbath is.

    Now, if you’re Christian or Moslem and you come up a few thousand years later and start saying “You know what? You got it wrong. God rested on Sunday” (or Friday, or whatever), then it’s incumbent upon you to show why. And that’s when you get Ussher-like stupid calculations.

    I personally don’t think that the first Jews (actually most likely lower-city level Canaanites, we now learn) really thought it through enough to define it that way. They just took some various stories and explained why they rested on that day. But then if they weren’t that dumb as to actually start doing mathematical work on it to prove their “logical” case as to why this is, then you don’t get to say that they’re wrong. For the Jews, the Sabbath has always been Saturday, and it will always be Saturday. In every single Old Testament book, Sabbath is “Saturday” (Shabbat). Sunday is “Yom Rishon” – first day. As far as I know, that’s the way the Jews have always lived.

    Please note, I’m not actually validating their origin story as being true – I’m just saying that you don’t get to assume and make up a definition for it simply because we all think it’s bullshit. We know it’s bullshit, but that’s the way it is. It’s bullshit, but Saturday is still Saturday, and Sunday is still Sunday, regardless of whether or not a God really existed to rest on that day or not. And if you’re Christian and you start saying that the Sabbath is really Sunday, you’ve got a whole lot of explaining to do.

  • So, God is a native Spanish speaker?

  • I completely understand what you’re trying to say but you’re wrong. “Sabbath” *means* “Saturday” in Hebrew. It’s always meant “Saturday” as far as we know. It’s not a designation, but a name of a day of the week. It’s like saying: “And God rested on Saturday” and then somebody comes up and says “You know, Saturday really means Sunday in English”. You’d get pretty indignant as well if you had to suddenly define the name “Saturday” as not being “Sunday”. It doesn’t matter if you think that God rested then, or if there is a God, or if you can’t drive or whatnot. “Saturday” remains the word and name “Saturday” for that particular day of the week. “Sunday” is not “Saturday”. And if a story says “And you can’t drive on Saturday”, then it does not say “And you can’t drive on Sunday”. It’s an entirely different day.

  • I can not believe this happened is the QC.

  • Sware

    Why not? Just curious. I live very near this situation.

  • Yes, but the name of the day came after the concept of its religious significance.

    The point is, what we call “Saturday” these days isn’t an even multiple of seven days from other “Saturdays” in the past. The choice of day is arbitrary.

    Any religion that takes its doctrine from the Old Testament is pretty much obliged to place some weight on the concept of resting one day out of seven. But the choice of what day that is on the civil calendar is completely up to them. No choice makes more, or less sense, than any other.

  • marriage is a covenant that God created for man and woman

    Or man and women in many cases.

  • “Yes, but the name of the day came after the concept of its religious significance.”

    You’re assuming. You have absolutely no proof of that in any way whatsoever. I mean, I hate to point this out, but that’s what a Rabbi might say. But does that make it true? I doubt it.

    I’m really gonna have to say no: bullshit is bullshit. But if you made up the bullshit myth in the first place, you get to say what it means before anyone else does. And the fact is that had there even been a Jesus (and perhaps there was, nobody knows though), he would have agreed. His “Sabbath” would have been on Saturday. So for Christians to come along and try to redefine the entire word and historical reality of that single fact really kind of pisses me off. And, in fact, we *know* that they didn’t have their sabbath on Sunday when they first started worshipping Jesus. It only came much later when they switched to Sunday. So we *know* historically that they’re wrong, and we *know* that religious Christians should be resting on Saturday and not Sunday.

  • Stev84

    There are the Seventh-day Adventists who have Sabbath from Friday evening to Saturday morning

  • The evidence that the name of the day followed its religious significance is overwhelming. It follows from the linguistic analysis: the root word means day of rest, and evolved into the name (names) used for the day of the week.

  • Thackerie

    Not only does the Bible spell out that condemned people must be stoned “with stones.” There are also a couple of “burn it with fire” verses. The writers weren’t actually inspired by God but at least it appears that they had some understanding of the intellectual limitations of their contemporary — and future — readers.

  • TheAnalogKid

    Jacob got sisters.

  • So it would seem, Cain and Abel.  That or, um, ya, let’s go with sisters.

  • TheAnalogKid

    And when Sarah got old, Abraham got . . . what’s her name, the maid. And let’s not even mention Solomon.

  • And Isaac got a pair of sisters and their maids.  Although it did cost him 14 years.

  • I think perhaps you are mistaking why Christians consider Sunday a holy day. I’m pretty sure that most of them will agree with you that Christ would have celebrated the Sabbath on Saturday. They use Sunday because it is supposedly the day that Jesus was resurrected. Sunday is not really  the same as the Sabbath for Jews. Most Christians wouldn’t argue that Sunday is the seventh day on which god rested, they just use it as their holy day. I can’t see why it matters one or the other to you as whichever day any group chooses to use as a religious day is kind of a bunch of malarky.  

  • Thomas Farrell

    Sounds like they screwed up but the owner is trying to do the right thing. We should applaud him for trying to do the right thing.

  • Derrik Pates

    The problem is, as with so many things about all religions, it’s all arbitrary. One group’s arbitrariness isn’t really any better than any other’s. Christians have come along and claimed to redefine (and of course, own) many things (marriage, the holiday known today as Christmas, the Sabbath, etc.). It doesn’t make them right or true – it’s just more equally arbitrary bullshit.

  • Derrik Pates

    Indeed, it’s obvious face-saving on the part of the husband. Assuming the story has been relayed accurately – and none of the parties has provided any indication that it hasn’t been – Mrs. Stewart spoke quite clearly and intentionally. She’s just an idiot.

  • Artor

    Actually, Cain & Abel married women from the land of Nod. Somehow there were people around not descended from Adam & Eve. It’s almost like whomever wrote Genesis had their head up their ass or something. They could definitely have used a good editor.

  • That’s one theory, but Genesis isn’t explicit about that.  Some Christians are more comfortable with the idea that the 2nd generation married siblings than the idea that some humans existed that were not descended from Adam and Eve.


  • Pssh, what an idiot. Why doesn’t she do what most companies do? Take the money and use it to undermine the rights of your customers.

  •  Freudian Slip — When you say one thing but mean your mother…

  • Guest

    This is one instance where I don’t see a problem. It is a private business and they should have the right to deny service to whoever they want. I don’t agree with they way they think, but they should have the ability to run the business how they see fit.

  • amycas

    Some Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons would disagree. Of course, they have to twist a whole bunch of stuff in the Bible to get that rule (and 7th Day Adventists and mormons abstain because of rules laid down by the respective originators of the religion)

  • amycas

    Legal precedent established that businesses (private or not) open to the public, cannot discriminate based on age, race, gender, ethnicity and in some states* sexual orientation. No, it is not the business’ right to refuse service based on these things.

    *has it become a federal classification yet??

  • Sindigo

    I agree with you. There was a similar incident in the UK recently when a hotel owning couple refused to let a gay couple, two men this time, rent a room. The court ruled that they had been unlawfully discriminatory. I have to say that I think the law is wrong. Private businesses should be able to discriminate if they want to.


    Don’t want to rent to a gay/lesbian/mixed-race/muslim/whatever couple? That should be your right, I think. It’ should also be my right to stand outside your business holding a sign and distributing leaflets that let the community know that you’re a bigotted ass.

  • NickDB

     Or it’s named after the roman god Saturn

    O.E. Sæterdæg, Sæternesdæg, lit. “day of the planet Saturn,” from
    Sæternes (gen. of Sætern; see Saturn) + O.E. dæg “day.” Partial
    loan-translation of L. Saturni dies “Saturn’s day” (cf. Du. zaterdag,
    O.Fris. saterdi, M.L.G. satersdach; Ir. dia Sathuirn, Welsh dydd Sadwrn). The
    Latin word is itself a loan-translation of Gk. kronou hemera, lit. “the
    day of Cronus.”

    Unlike other day names, no god substitution seems to have been attempted,
    perhaps because the northern European pantheon lacks a clear corresponding
    figure to Roman Saturn. An ancient Nordic custom, however, seems to be
    preserved in O.N. laugardagr, Dan. lørdag, Swed. lördag “Saturday,”
    lit. “bath day” (cf. O.N. laug “bath”). Ger. Samstag
    (O.H.G. sambaztag) appears to be from a Gk. *sambaton, a nasalized colloquial
    form of sabbaton “sabbath,” also attested in O.C.S. sabota, Rus.
    subbota, Fr. samedi.

    Or it’s named after the sabbath which seems to have come from the nordic
    regions and not Israel.

    Also I’m pretty sure the Jewish Sabbat starts on Friday. So the whole Saturday
    been called after Sabbat thing loses a bit of credibility there.

    Your correction may have been right just as any of the others may have been.
    Let’s be honest, it’s all a bunch of bullshit.

  • Drew M.

     An atheist going with the colloquial meaning of, “theory,” is almost unforgivable. 😉

  • The Other Weirdo

     Someone’s sleeping on the couch tonight. Or whatever night this happened on.

  • Gus Snarp

    Wait, aren’t “Biblical Christian” women supposed to submit to their husbands? Somebody’s cherry picking their religion again.

  • Curt Cameron

    Sure, it’s a private business, but as a society long ago we accepted that we want to have non-discrimination laws apply to private businesses, to keep them from refusing service to certain categories of people who were traditionally oppressed. 

    Would you also support the right of a private restaurant to refuse service to black people? Maybe you would – that position can be defended by reasonable people – but you have to admit that if you support interference in one’s private business in the case of race, then you can’t fall back on the private business defense in this case.

  • T-Rex

    tangent anyone?

  • Let’s be honest, it’s all a bunch of bullshit.

    Although I have to say, the basic idea of one day of rest out of seven strikes me as one of the very few tidbits of wisdom that can actually be found in the bible.

  • rlrose328

    I REALLY wish I could have been a fly on the wall in that house the night Mr. Stewart confronted his wife after tried her best to kill their business.  Popcorn in hand, of course. 

  • Anonymous

     So what did God create on the 8th day when he was done resting?

  • Jim

    Wouldn’t you have just loved to be a fly on the wall when Peter Stewart read the riot act to his Biblical Christian wife Kristen and kicked her Biblical Christian ass out of the company? I’ll bet he zapped her with Ephesians 5:22-24: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife as
    Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also
    wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” That’s a Biblical Christian version of a bitch slap if there ever was one. Works every time. 

  • Anonymous

     Hold on, I have my Bible somewhere. Let’s find out what unions are explicitly approved of by God. We can look at the good figures of the bible and find out which bonds are sacred. So we have:

    A sacred bond between Adam and each one of the animals made for him, none of which was a “suitable companion”.
    A sacred bond between Noah’s family and other members of Noah’s family.
    A sacred bond between Lot’s virgin daughters and an angry mob of rapists.
    A sacred bond between Lot’s virgin daughters and a drunken Lot.
    A sacred bond between a rapist and the father of the virgin he raped for 50 shekels.
    A sacred bond between a man and the father of a young girl who is sold as property for the dowry.
    A sacred bond between King Solomon and his many wives and concubines.
    A sacred bond between Moses’s army and the virgin female children captured in war and passed around as party favors.
    A sacred bond between a master and the male slave he gives a female slave to.
    A sacred bond between a master and the female slave he rapes.
    A sacred bond between a man and nobody, for it is better to become a eunuch than to succumb to temptation.

    I’m starting to think maybe we should ban straight marriage. It’s an affront to the sanctity of marriage.

  • What about foreskins?  Oh, no, wait, that was a covenant.  Never mind.

  •  I happen to belong to a Christian Identity church. We believe that Jews and blacks are inferior. … and don’t get me started on queers. I own a restaurant in town and we require ID. This way we can refuse to service to Epstein and Schwartz. Of course  we don’t serve people of color. Two guys holding hands? Forget about it. Now the ACLJew is suing me for practicing my religion. I DEMAND my rights under the First Amendment!!!

  • Baby_Raptor

    Would you be saying that if someone had denied service to a Christian wedding?

  • Except for genuine, private, members-only clubs whose facilities are not open to the general public at all (which are actually pretty rare), a business which is open to the public is open to the public, period.  There are important historical reasons for these laws and regulations.  The rights of people not to be discriminated against in where they can shop, eat, sleep, or live trump the rights of people who open their doors to the public to exclude certain members of the public on certain grounds.

  • Villabolo

    “…one of the very few tidbits of wisdom that can actually be found in the bible.”

    And in Zoroastrianism, long before Judaism.

  • Frequentwind706

    Um, no.  Is every word you write absolutely necessary?  This wasn’t just a set of laws, it was literature.  “Ki harog tihargenu” (Deuteronomy 13:10, e.g.) has a certain cadence and that’s probably what the author was going for.
    Also, you can be burned with things other than fire.  Acid, the sun, etc.

    One more thing – the Torah does not prohibit wearing poly-cotton blends, it prohibits linen-wool blends.  Nor does it prohibit working on “Sunday.”

  • For me, either a business is open to the public, or it is not.  If it’s not, it’s not really a business, it’s a club, which is a whole other category.  There are some exceptions, of course.  Wholesalers are not generally obliged to serve just anyone who just walks in out of the street, for example, and certainly sales of certain kinds of merchandise have legal restrictions on them, but in general I think the principle holds true.  If you have a business, and it’s open to the general public, anyone who can pay the cost and who isn’t doing anything illegal on your property should have access to whatever goods or services you provide.

  • * no 

    Which means that not allowing a gay wedding might be strictly speaking legal, depending on the state.  Businesses can legally refuse service to anyone, they just can’t do it for any reason.

  • amycas

     Thanks for the clarification.

  • Born and raised East Moline.  My perspective of my home area was one of good tolerant people.  I guess I had my blinders on.

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